Hydrogen storage in salt caverns is the new way forward

Hydrogen storage in salt caverns is the new way forward

The UK is abundant with salt bed resources, when only one cavern can satisfy peak demands for a whole city Storing hydrogen deep underground in salt caverns and converting it into power could help meet the UK’s future peak energy and load following demands, according to a new report published by the Energy Technologies Institute

The UK is abundant with salt bed resources, when only one cavern can satisfy peak demands for a whole city

Storing hydrogen deep underground in salt caverns and converting it into power could help meet the UK’s future peak energy and load following demands, according to a new report published by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

The Peak Energy Report, written by the ETI’s Carbon Capture and Storage Strategy Manager Den Gammer, examines the role hydrogen storage could play in a clean, responsive power system. It argues that using salt caverns to store hydrogen for power generation would reduce the investment needed in new clean power station capacity.

Den Gammer says: “Storing hydrogen in large quantities and converting it into power is a reliable, affordable and flexible way of creating power to meet peak energy demands in the UK. The UK’s energy landscape is changing rapidly. More renewable power supplies are being installed and, although clean, these are intermittent, which increases the need for a low cost, clean, on-demand power supply that currently only fossil fuel plants can provide.
“One of the main benefits is cost, as hydrogen storage could provide low-cost and clean power. Large amounts of energy can be stored, with one cavern providing enough storage capacity to satisfy the peak demands of a single UK city.”

Today, salt caverns are already used for storing oil and natural gas and there are around 30 large caverns in the UK. Whilst fossil fuels will still have a role to play in the UK’s energy system beyond 2030, those plants should be equipped with CCS technology.

Building a 10 GW scale CCS sector by 2030 in the UK is both feasible and affordable. Apart from providing low carbon electricity, CCS can capture emissions from industry, help render low carbon gas and deliver ‘negative emissions’ when combined with bio-energy.

Den Gammer adds: “To get the most out of the investment required for installing a CCS plant we need to reduce the time it is spent idle. By storing hydrogen produced continuously by modestly sized hydrogen plants in salt caverns, we could generate electricity only when it’s needed. This is more efficient and cost effective than building a whole new power station designed to meet peak demand but only running for a small part of the day.”

According to the ETI’s Low-Carbon Insight and Energy Transition reports, the UK can implement an affordable transition to a low carbon energy system over the next 35 years by developing, commercializing and integrating technologies already known, but underdeveloped.

It also warned that decisions taken in the next decade are critical in preparing for the transition and must concern designing the UK future energy system by 2025.

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